If your typical club weigh-ins is simply a functional finish to a day on the water, consider these ways to add interest and even attract crowds.
By Jeff Samsel
It’s a question that gets asked far too often at club weigh-ins. It’s not a matter of anyone being disinterested in the results. It’s just that many weigh-ins are far from compelling, and often it’s hard to keep track of what’s going on at the scales, even with a dedicated effort.
Every club weigh-in doesn’t need to be TV-type affair, with crowds and hype and all the trimmings, and the personalities of some clubs dictate keeping everything low-key and simple. That said, many bass clubs would benefit from adding life to weigh-ins and making them events that offer an element of fun.
Upgrading weigh-ins can make the end of every tournament day into a special club event, adding fellowship to complement the days’ competition and attracting family and friends. Well planned weigh-ins even draw other fishing fans and interested parties, which is good for attracting new members and adds significant value for club sponsors.
Of course, building better weigh-ins doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Making a major event out of a weigh-in might be a once- or twice-a-year occurrence, possibly in place of a club picnic, field day or banquet, or a club might opt to incorporate just one or two elements to add more life to regular weigh-ins. Even those clubs that choose to keep everything totally low-key can retain members’ attention while fish are being weighed simply by adding structure, with a defined start and finish to the fish-weighing time and the person weighing the fish directly addressing whoever is assembled.
Make it Clear
An easy way to upgrade a club’s weigh-ins and to keep folks interested as the fish are brought to the scales is to add a microphone to the mix. If people have to strain to hear what is going on, most will just tune things out completely and turn their attention elsewhere. Then they start other conversations, which makes it that much harder for others to hear—and the downward spiral continues. A sound system provides the double benefit of making the weighmaster easier to hear and reminding club members that something is going on and that they really ought to be paying attention.
Most clubs have one or more members who do well with a microphone in hand and can keep a crowd engaged and entertained during the weigh-in. The sound system itself doesn’t need to be fancy. A little amplification will go a long way toward keeping folks interested.
Another thing that causes weigh-in spectators to mentally check out is uncertainly about what has happened. Some form of leaderboard that lists top teams and weights and can be updated as the weigh-in proceeds is absolutely critical for maintaining interest from start to finish. The board doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be a large erasable marker board or a magnetic board with magnet-backed strips of poster board for each team that can be moved up or down the board as needed. The most important thing is that the board is actively updated throughout the weigh-in so observers know the place of those anglers they are watching and so they know the significance of any bag of fish brought to the scales.
Anyone who has ever planned church socials knows that if you want to attract crowds, you serve food. In addition to drawing crowds, a meal makes a weigh-in into much more of a social event. Grilled burgers or ’dogs, fried fish and smoked barbecue all lend themselves well to lakeside cooking and easy serving in an outdoor setting, and the food can be available from the time folks start coming in or it can be saved until after the last fish is weighed. The latter scenario does tend to keep people from leaving early, and it creates a nice opportunity for all to sit together and eat.
Two downsides to adding a food element to a weigh-in are that it adds significant work and that someone has to pay for the food and the fixings. Regarding the workload, a club simply has to decide whether the benefits outweigh the effort involved and whether someone is willing to do the job. The cost, likewise, could be a budgeted expense that the club opts to front in order to benefit club members and sponsors. An alternative is to charge a meal fee at a rate that simply covers the actual cost of putting on the meal or to find a meal sponsor.
A final option is to turn things around by charging a little more per plate and actually making a meal into a fundraiser for a club outreach program or some other community outdoor-related cause. For this option, it’s worth talking with local restaurants that offer to-go plates, as they often will sell prepared boxed lunches to a club at a very good price to help the fundraising effort. The fundraising meal option is generally best reserved for just a couple of tournaments per year.
Prizes & More
Everybody likes free stuff.
Many tournaments offer door prizes of some sort, and when the drawings take place, everyone whose name is in the hat pays attention. Few things are less interesting to people whose names are not in the mix, though. Therefore, if the idea is to keep everyone in attendance engaged and to credit sponsors with all ears listening, hand out door prize tickets to everyone—not just tournament participants or club members. To maximize interest, gather some prizes that aren’t only of interest to anglers, and let winners pick from the entire prize table when their name or number is drawn.
A good way to keep everyone’s attention throughout a weigh-in is to draw some door prize tickets before the fish are weighed, a few halfway through and some more at the end. It’s important to realize, however, that as much as everyone likes to win a prize, no one wants to listen to numbers being read off for half an hour, so don’t go overboard with the number of prizes.
Beyond door prizes, another very good way to broaden the appeal of a weigh-in and build the total event is to plan a few games geared primarily toward youngsters. Along with the standard picnic races, pitching and casting games are always popular at fishermen’s gatherings. Games can take place before any fish are actually weighed or after the weigh-in is completed.
Still another fun way to add interest to a weigh-in is to add a live music element. It’s generally not hard to find a local instrumentalist or band to play a set before or after the fish are weighed or during a post-tournament meal, and they might even help with a sound system for the weigh-in itself. A band, of course, potentially adds an expense, but many musicians are glad to play for the experience and exposure—especially if they are allowed to put out an empty jar! Put the word out at a meeting. Someone probably knows someone.
Spread the Word
If you want a weigh-in to be an event, you have to bill it as such. It matters little how good a party you throw if folks don’t know it is happening. A certain amount can be done by word of mouth. Encourage every member to invite family and friends. If you want to attract other area fishing fans, though, you have to be more intentional about public relations efforts, getting something in the local paper’s community calendar, putting up posters, posting notes on social networking websites and fishing forums and so forth.
Of course, any PR is much easier if you have a good product to sell. Attract some extra attendees to a couple of weigh-ins that really are fun gatherings, and those folks will return and will help spread the word. Eventually, it can become mostly a matter of publishing dates and times.